4. James Peter Larry – 19th Century Ladies’ Man

James Peter Larry

James Peter Larry

I suppose everyone’s family tree must have a black sheep. This week’s subject of the 52 Ancestors Challenge has certainly earned that distinction in my husband’s family tree.

James Peter Larry was born June 26, 1838 In Brookfield, Morgan County, Ohio. His mother was Margaret “Peggy” DeGarmo. His father was said to be a Peter O’Leary, who Margaret may not have married. There is very, little known about Peter. It is rumored that he may have murdered someone and he spent the rest of life in prison. I have not found any evidence to support that rumor.

On June 15, 1854, James married Rachel Schelling in Perry County, Ohio. They had 4 children: Thomas J. Larry, Mary Elizabeth Larry, Rebecca Jane Larry and George N. Larry. 

Sometime before 1860, James and his family moved to Liberty, Vernon County, Wisconsin, and took up farming. He went off to fight in the Civil War, serving with the Wisconsin 42nd Infantry. He returned to Wisconsin in 1865, most likely with the intent of farming his land and raising his family. But, it seems that James just couldn’t control certain urges and according to local newspapers, ended up with some very public scrapes because of it.

The 1870 census shows James living in Liberty with wife Rachel, his children, and Rachel’s sister Mary. Among their neighbors was Ann Hanchett and her 13 year old daughter, Mary Elizabeth Hanchett. His half brothers also lived nearby including John Downey and his wife, Isabel.

Rachel ended up leaving James and took their children to reside in nearby Sparta, Wisconsin in Monroe County. On December 18, 1871, James and Rachel were divorced, reasons not known. However, considering future events, one can only imagine why Rachel could not live with her husband any longer.

On November 9, 1874, John Downey was plowing his fields and was shot. According to the “History of Vernon County” John had lain in the field for a long time and almost died. After some time, James Larry was accused because it was said that he had become infatuated with John’s wife, Isabel.  James was arrested and went to trial in the Spring of 1875. The trial was very long and it was said that at one point, a mob from the town of Liberty had threatened to lynch James. However on June 19, 1875, a jury found James Peter Larry not guilty.

On August 15, 1876, James married for the second time to Mary Elizabeth Hanchett, daughter of his former neighbor, in Monroe County. He was 38 and she was 19. The 1880 census found James and Mary living in Sparta, Monroe County, Wisconsin. They were next door neighbors to William Falls and his wife, Anna.

According to a newspaper article from the March 28, 1882 issue of The Sparta Herald, Anna Falls and James Larry left their families, and ran off to Winona, Minnesota to “elope” although both were still married. Both told their families that they were going to Bangor, Wisconsin, and left on different days. However, Anna’s husband, William, became suspicious and telegraphed the railroad. A conductor revealed that they had both gone to Winona. A warrant was issued for James and a deputy sheriff was sent off to Winona. He found the pair at the Huff House, registered under S.H. Holmes and wife.

James Larry returned to Sparta and with wife, Mary until his death on April 17, 1902. His obituary in The Sparta Herald said he had married Mary Hanchett in 1876, “with whom he lived happily ever since.” James was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Sparta.

James Peter Larry has certainly been the most entertaining ancestor to research. Although, I have enjoyed sharing his 3rd great grandfather’s escapades with my husband, I am certainly glad that my husband did NOT inherit any of his traits.


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